Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Luke Hemming 29.06.2021

Review for Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X/S

Games are a funny thing, especially when you accompany the approach to them with a stubborn personality. So many titles come into conversation with fellow gamers that it's often easier to tune out and go with that gut feeling that something is worth a punt on. One major recommendation however has always been the Yakuza series. With every new iteration a friend or fellow Journo (that's what they call themselves in the know) will exhume endless reasoning as to why any title in the series is a must play. These have gone mostly ignored with the occasional dip into the early hours of a few without being really grabbed by the gacha-toys. Then came Yakuza: Like a Dragon, tugging on the RPG strings with its turn-based battle system. What was delivered was a massive departure from what came before and because of that, might well be the game of the year.

One great part of the Yakuza series that can't be argued with is the characters, and lead protagonist Ichiban Kasuga sets the stage for an engaging few opening hours, although how this man became a member of the Yakuza is baffling even now. Ichi is the spokesperson for optimism and approaches every shady deal or shakedown with not only a massive smile but far too much leniency for a man in his line of work. No money? No Problem! Ichi will simply come up with a totally unbelievable story to cover for his debtors and get himself in trouble. This boundless optimism about the world in general partnered with his overly kind nature and fierce loyalty never falters throughout the whole 50 odd hour campaign and makes him one of the most likeable leads of recent years. Of course, this also means that the majority of scrapes are all his fault but still he never comes across as someone you wouldn't want to hang out with.

In most cases, familiarity does breed contempt, but it's refreshing that pretty much all of the major players joining Ichi on his path to clarification are great to interact with and use in combat. All have their own reasons for being part of the adventure, which can be optionally explored throughout the story and unlocking some hearty super moves as a result. With its full lean into JRPG territory these are packed with dialogue but not to be missed as it really gives players a kinship for everyone, not just our afro loving lead. A personal favourite is Nanba, the street tramp come umbrella wielding death dealer. Of all the subplots, his interweaves with the main story seamlessly and becomes integral to the mission. Anytime he isn't part of the team feels like a major loss and the standard trope of party rotation is often thrown out the window to constantly have him on side lobbing pigeons at people.

Screenshot for Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X/S

The main question any fans of the series, as well as newcomers like myself taking their first steps into the Kamurocho District, are asking is... 'Does the combat work?' It's probably the most divisive, as veterans will most likely miss the action-based battles that have been a series mainstay. For this reviewer however, the turn-based system comes across as not only intuitive but incredibly accessible. Every party member has unique attacks based on their initial job roles which can all be altered throughout through a job system (accessed at an actual job centre which is the cleverest gaming idea in games, ever). Not enjoying Ichi's bat antics? Turn him into a chef instead and have him roast enemies and heal allies. Anything from Casino to construction worker are available and all level in the way expected. The higher the level, the more unique attacks, buffs and debuffs available to you. As with all the best Final Fantasy titles (except for FF2, which is rubbish) experimentation leads not only to fun, but success, with various enemies and bosses susceptible to a certain attack or status ailment only available from a certain job type. All are fun to experiment with and form the basis for Yakuza's greatest system to date. Here's hoping that all future titles follow the same formula and remain turn based from now on.

With a strong story that will last 30-40 hours if followed strictly, there is certainly enough to warrant a purchase, but it's in the extras and exploration that Yakuza: Like a Dragon really shines. Every one is assured to subvert expectations and veer off in a wildly different direction to the expected. What seems like a simple fetch quest for a professor leads to a fight to the death with a vacuum and a simple lost and found becomes an adult baby-fest. It's difficult to describe the hilarity of these but after completing all of them, all are burned firmly in the memory as inventive and suitably bonkers. Pretty much every street corner is also filled with various minigames. Go-Karting, Karaoke and baseball to name a few, it's frankly staggering how much extra content there is in this game and also the Sega Arcades make a welcome return with full versions of some classics. Playing Virtua Fighter might be worth the price of purchase alone. Shortly into the game however, the best distraction presents itself in the form of a business management simulator. Ichi takes over a small local company and then aims to make it the top selling business in the country. It's incredibly addictive and can consume hours of playtime employing staff members and buying properties. The main game also links in well with certain sidequests opening up new opportunities in the business. After a month of trading, it's then onto the boss battle with the shareholders, begging and arguing to ensure their happiness. It's well worth committing to and reaps generous rewards for the main game.

Screenshot for Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Yakuza: Like a Dragon does exactly as hoped and brings a whole new audience to the series with a reinvention of sorts. It plays well, looks great, and has one of the simplest stories to understand fronted by Ichi, the most likeable protagonist so far. It was a bold move in it's radical approach to the combat system that has paid off spectacularly, when partnered with a wealth of sub-quests that never feel forced and always delight. If you are a long time Yakuza fan, take comfort in knowing that even in a new direction this not only holds up, but is the best in the series. For newcomers, go and grab one of the games of the year. Consider this reviewer converted.


Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio




Turn Based RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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